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If only fighting my own demons was as fun as 'Total War: Warhammer 3'

<p>Screenshot by Elijah Wachs</p>

Screenshot by Elijah Wachs

My descent into the Warhammer fandom began only a couple years ago. Hearing my older brothers talk about Space marines, Primarchs, and someone named the Emperor of Mankind slowly piqued my interest over the years. The banter and the references all culminate into a fateful decision of me pressing play on a seemingly harmless lore video on YouTube. That small moment was the beginning of the end. The only thing I could see before me was a gleeful obsession.


The Age of Strife, My Steam Playtime

I am an avid fan of Warhammer 40,000. While I have a general interest in the equally over-the-top fantasy version of the long-standing sci-fi setting, I cannot claim to be a “fan”. Despite this, I was introduced to Total War: Warhammer 2 by the very people who cast me into the universe to begin with — my brothers. Enchanting me with triumphant displays of fantasy battle between armies of pure imagination bode ill for my Steam playtime. For the uninitiated, Total War 2 is a turn-based, real-time strategy (RTS) game made by Creative Assembly (CA). The game is packed with possibly hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of possible gameplay with 69 distinct playable lords with — all the DLC (Downloadable Content) — each with their own unique playstyle and campaign effects. This incredible achievement of video game development soon devoured my free time, as the clock slowly ticked down to the release of the third and final installment in CA's tour de force. The time came, and Total War: Warhammer 3 was released on February 17. 

A Threequel Worth Embracing the Dark Gods For

Total War 3 was an immediate and powerful force upon release, following one of the greatest development cycles ever. CA has missed nary a beat between the drop of Total War 3’s release trailer to the week of the game's release. Every week brought details and hints that promised the strongest follow-up to one of the greatest RTS games in history. Everything from unit behavior, battlefield camera and command mechanics, campaign mechanics, visuals and battle maps had been improved. CA swiftly and firmly addressed all of the shortcomings of their previous title, leaving the fan base shocked by their brilliance and ability to listen. The changes made were dazzling and graceful, leaving nothing out as fans clamored to experience a game created out of true passion and care.

Enough Warlords to Satiate the Blood God Himself 

The game itself is outstanding to behold and takes strides to set itself apart from its illustrious past. On release, Total War 3 boasts 11 playable lords under the banners of 8 different factions. This includes the Ogre Kingdoms as a preorder bonus, which is now available in the Steam store for regular DLC purchases. In regular Total War fashion, each faction is entirely distinctive from both each other and the factions that exist within the previous two titles. From the proud and coldhearted people of Kislev to the demonic hordes of the Chaos Gods, each faction is a game within itself. Each lord is also distinctive, each with its own campaign effects and playstyles. Total War 3 offers an astounding amount of gameplay that is not only creative but entirely original, delivering gameplay that is hard-pressed to be found anywhere else.

Visuals to Rival The Dark Prince of Desires

The visuals feel well-rounded and thick, making the game feel heavy and expensive like a nice paperweight complementing an impressive desk. The art is gorgeous using either the in-game engine for certain cutscenes or handcrafted art stills to create the story, even if there is little of that to begin with. The campaign is simple, not wasting time with the plot or characters. You are given a goal and quickly the game gets out of your way to let you do what the game is all about — destroying your enemies. The new factions and units make a familiar game feel entirely new with excitement at every new map, at every new battle. These new factions and units are led into battle by a cast of all new and inventive lords, each with creative and game-changing campaign effects and playstyles that are unique to themselves, effectively creating 11 different playthroughs of Total War 3’s campaign.

Improved Game Mechanics that Would Make The Lord of Change Smile

The improvements for both campaign mechanics and battle mechanics shine, buffing an already well-designed system to a new polish and shine. Even things that plagued the previous titles have been reworked and improved. The most immediate one is Total War’s settlement and capital battles. In Total War 2, settlement battles were conducted the same as normal field combat, placing both the garrison army and the attacking army on an open field for head-to-head combat. In Total War 3, settlements are now dynamic battle maps of streets, plazas, and architecture that can be used in strategy to split up attackers and bolster defense points. Capital battles have changed in the same way, ditching the frightfully boring walled assaults of Total War 2 for dynamic, region and faction-based battle maps that feel both daunting and exciting to attack and invigorating to defend. 

Avoiding Toxic Leadership like the Plaguefather

Despite a release that makes Cyberpunk fans weak at the knees, not all was a "Fantano 10" upon Total War’s release date. The game has and is still experiencing bugs and performance issues, slashing the tires of many extant fans attempting to peel off the track. However, even with a flurry of technical issues, developers are ready to expect a wave of possible problems upon release, and CA is no stranger already moving to list and fix all known issues with the game present. This shows not only poise and power during prerelease but commitment and consistency throughout post-release. CA is in the running for one of the best development companies to make video games. Period. 

In The Grimdark Future of My Freetime

In writing this review, I came upon a substantial roadblock. I am a video game fan, having been raised on the very tail end of Halo: Combat Evolved. I have huge respect for the art form and the games that stand the test of time. These games go above and beyond to achieve what true art and expression attempt to do. They create worlds, characters, and stories that define entire generations and inspire thousands to not only feel but to create for themselves. But the roadblock is simple, how do I value Total War 3? How do I look at the art that has been created and judge them against CA's glowing poster child? 

Total War 3 has no real characters, no real plot, no real story. Yet it delivers exactly what it promises: to be better than anything else ever has. Never have I played a game that improves upon its successor so confidently, so completely. From the mechanics to the visuals everything has been freshly laid upon long-standing foundations. Never has a game series been worth the investment for the gameplay available. Total War 1 and 2 snap together to create a massive, entirely playable map with almost 70 unique lords. This same mechanic is also coming to Total War 3, creating an entire world map with what will soon be over 100 playable lords under dozens of factions. Thousands of hours of gameplay, all under the strongest of all of the titles so far. Total War 3 sets out to astound a young veteran of CA’s catalog, promising nothing less than absolute greatness to come. 

Images: Screenshots by Elijah Wachs

Sources: Warhammer 40,000, Total War, Creative Assembly, Total War: Warhammer 3, YouTube, The Gamer, Cyberpunk, Sega, The Gamer

Contact Elijah Wachs with comments at eawachs@bsu.edu.